What Crosses My Mind About Homeschooling

March 15, 2013

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3 years oldBella and I have done pretty casual homeschooling this year. I don’t think there was any way around it with everything going on.

I really wanted to focus on her learning how to use her imagination, be creative in her play, interact with peers, small and large motor skills, and a love of being outside, reading, and art.

She also knows (most of) her ABC’s and numbers 1-10, along with nursery rhymes and common preschool songs.

I start to think about her 4th year and beyond, and it tends to lead to the same two questions over and over:

  • Do I want/need more structure with her as time goes on?
  • Or do we want to lean into a more unschooled method?

I go back and forth on this. As a teacher, unschooling both terrifies and intrigues me. It’s not that I don’t think it’s not a viable way to teach, but I wonder about my struggle with self motivation and being able to follow through with a less rigid schedule or plan for each day. Could I really feel that sense of purpose and accomplishment without a curriculum? Would I be able to even structure an unschooled day?

Then there is the side of me that simply wants to buy a full on, totally done curriculum for each grade (not all at once) and see the progress, know the general end result that each day is getting to. The problem with this is knowing how I really want to do things differently than a regular classroom, and a curriculum might bring out the side of me that simply can’t unless all the “work” is done.

My ideal is to marry the two somehow. To have a lot of structure for things like handwriting, learning how to read, math, etc. Then for science, history, art, and so on – I’d love to really be more “creative” there. So far I’m not really able to find anyone who does a style like this. Most homeschooling bloggers I read are pretty much one way or the other. I’m torn between wanting to do the ideal and not knowing if that will end up being so much work I find myself overwhelmed trying to keep up with it all.

Of course Bella is 3 1/2, so it’s not like I need to decide this now. It still is on my mind though as I see more and more kids near her age head off to school, and know that soon her days will need a little more to them than we do now.

If you homeschool or plan to, what are your ideals? How do you picture your days and lessons throughout the year? Do you know any sites or bloggers that combine unschooling methods along with more structured ways for the basics?


  • Anjelica Rachela Tringas

    August 23, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    If you homeschool or plan to, what are your ideals?
    I have been a homeschool mom for almost 10 years now and we have experimented in a lot of different methods. My ideal has been about the same throughout the years, to make sure it was a fun and memorable experience. My goal is to have my daughter graduate and in college by 14. She passed two parts of the GED exam at nine and again at ten. We are now working on the math and science.

    How do you picture your days and lessons throughout the year?
    I ask the children what do they want to learn and let them make the lessons.

    Do you know any sites or bloggers that combine unschooling methods along with more structured ways for the basics?
    I am working on one…

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  • Nikki

    March 19, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    As a college student who was homeschooled all the way through, I completely understand your dilemma. My mom is a very type A person, and so probably through 6th grade or so, she used the ABEKA curriculum (it’s the same Christian curriculum used in some private schools) and all its components. However, around 7th grade, she began to switch things up as she learned my personal learning style (audio and kinetic). We still used ABEKA for math and science(though she cut out most of the repetitive work), and began to use Total Language Plus (http://www.totallanguageplus.com/main.htm) for reading/English/writing, and Apologia (http://www.apologia.com/index.asp?proc=pg&pg=1) for science.

    We had some easy days where we did some work and used other experiences as “school” (such as volunteering and field trips). By the time I was in High School, we found an EXCELLENT history curriculum! If you don’t look at anything else, I HIGHLY recommend looking into Diana Waring (http://www.dianawaring.com/). She has three main books and audio cds which can be tailored to every single grade level. There were activities for every learning style, and you can reuse the books for years, adding to the depth of your studying. I still have those cds and love listening to them.

    As my mom always put it, decide what you want to be structured (math, so on) and what you want to have more fun with (history, etc). If, as Bella grows up, she latches onto a particular theme or subject, go for it! Don’t neglect the other areas of study, but let her explore to her heart’s content! You are doing a great job of thinking ahead 🙂 Hope this helps, sorry for it being so long!

  • Mai Bateson

    March 17, 2013 at 5:46 am

    I don’t have any idea how homeschool system really works, when I’m gonna have my kids someday, I would love to try homeschooling. All the comments here are very informative.. Thanks guys!

  • Tanya

    March 16, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Lots of people homeschool that way… structured for some things, unstructured for most. Most people I know who homeschool do not buy a certain curriculum. They pick up things piecemeal for what they want to do. The magic of learning is that if you immerse your children in quality activities, and leave lots of room for exploring and creating, they will learn everything they need to know without ever filling out a workbook. Yes, some things like advanced math and handwriting (and sadly, schools don’t even teach cursive any more) need some time sitting around a table, but you have a long time before you need to worry about that. At 3.5 years old, Bella should be doing nothing BUT play… give her creative playtime full of items of substance… blocks, construction toys, crayons, magnifying glasses….plant some bean seeds, go climb at the park and look at bugs and reptiles…take trips to the zoo and the children’s museum…. and don’t even think about sitting her down to teach 2 plus 2. That will all come. Right now she needs to learn to THINK, not to memorize! You’re doing great!

    1. Diana

      March 16, 2013 at 11:46 am

      Oh I’m not doing this now! My questions were geared towards pre-k next year and beyond. Right now she just plays. A lot. No worksheets or anything – it’s all very organic and curiosity based. I’m hoping to find a mix of the two so I can have an idea of what too look for before this baby gets here and we’re all busy. 🙂

  • Anne-Marie

    March 16, 2013 at 11:25 am

    My friend Avi wrote a wonderful piece on “alternative” education that explains Unschooling and different options really well. When I went to look for it, I could not believe it was from the Fall, 2011 issue, because I still feel like I just read it. Don’t let the super-crunchy Bamboo Magazine exterior fool you; the article is not just for crazy hippies! 😉


  • Julie

    March 15, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    I’ve been homeschooling since early 2002. I swing back and forth on that too. It sounds like you may be a bit like me in the motivation area. I also didn’t do much school the year we lost my baby son so we got ‘behind’…(er). Sometimes I think I’d prefer unschooling or at least a bit looser version of what I’m currently doing but when the economy tanked we had to move back to our native state which put us back near our families. My ILs (MIL in particular) put a lot of pressure on me to be like everybody else so after all the quizzing my children over the years they decided I need to at least be more structured. :b

    When I originally started homeschooling I read books by the Moores and other homeschooling families. I tried a few different curriculum packages but didn’t really like any till we tried My Father’s World. It’s a mix of Charlotte Mason, Classical and unit study styles and I actually really like it. So do my kiddos. I also tailor it to our needs we took three years to finish one package with one of my kiddos. Since math and language arts are selected separately according to grade from 2nd through 8th grade we take that at our own pace too. I don’t always use what they recommend either.

    My oldest daughter had started to become all around difficult when my baby boy died and I couldn’t deal with fighting with her to do school every day so I cut her loose to do just the basics on her own. When she finally listened to me and tried My Father’s World’s first year of high school she decided she loved homeschooling again.That was pretty awesome. 🙂

    I skimmed through and noticed someone mentioned BFIAR. That’s a good choice too. I used to have a homeschool review blog for The Old Schoolhouse magazine and got to try that out. It was a little hard to find some of the books but otherwise it was a good curriculum.

    I have heard of one person that presents a bit of a different approach. Her name is Carole Joy Seid. This is her site. http://blog.carolejoyseid.com/ She recommends a blend of the Moores philosophy (Better Late Than Early) and a Classical history cycle. She recommends a few different choices for math and reading. You can listen to a recording of her doing a radio interview from her site. If you google her you might be able to find a bit more on her.

    Good luck! I hope you find what works for you and your family.

    1. Diana

      March 17, 2013 at 10:00 am

      Thank you! And I’ve heard great things about My Father’s World and I love Charlotte Mason so it’s one I definitely want to look into.

  • Nicole

    March 15, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    We homeschool in that way–the in between. I couldn’t ever be structured. It would drive me crazy! I tried and then quit beating myself up for failing and embraced a more relaxed method. 🙂

  • Stella

    March 15, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Sorry about the typos! I’m on my phone and can only see half of what I’m typing! I meant BALANCE and (unschooling)

    1. Diana

      March 15, 2013 at 7:05 pm

      No worries! Although I did have to think about valence for a moment. 😉
      I adore the BFIAR series. I need to look at their upper grades more. Thank you so much for the input on here!

  • Stella

    March 15, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    My daughter is going to be starting kindergarten this fall. I have poured over how to valence the two worlds. I think there is a huge benefit to showing my kids the world of learning possibilities in everyday life (in schooling), but I also think there are some good things that come from sitting down and focusing and some of the more traditional schooling options. 🙂 I have been using BeforeFIAR, Five In A Row and Raising Rock Stars Preschool my girls love worksheets and I love that our jumping off place is a good book. What better way for them to fall in love with reading?we also love the early Kumon books. I have been really torn about how to handle kindergarten. It feels like much higher stakes for some reason. 🙂 I finally decided to go with My Father’s World for this next year. It’s fairly inexpensive so I feel better about trying it out and possibly supplementing. The structure and lesson plans are for my sake… I need to have something to fall back on when my week gets crazy. I think the activities sound like fun and it fits with a low key approach to schooling, I think. Best of luck in your journey!! Your daughter is so lucky to have you teaching her. I have certainly enjoyed your ideas!

  • Creative Homeschool Mom

    March 15, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    So far I have homeschooled my oldest from kindergarten through 4th grade. We purchase a full curriculum each year and then just do what we want with it, lol! We stick strictly to the books for math, religion, phonics, spelling, and vocabulary; we use most of the coursework for reading and English in the older grades, but substitute more interesting books and projects when desired; and when it comes to science, history, and art we use the books more as a guideline of the level and suggested topics for that year, and we go completely off the trail.

    If your OCD/teacher side wouldn’t be able to handle leaving books partly (or mostly) unused and/or incomplete, you could always purchase only the courses for which you would be sticking strictly to the book.

    I personally love purchasing a full curriculum because even if there’s a couple of books that we don’t fully utilize, I feel that I won’t have skipped over or forgotten anything (my biggest fear!).

    1. Diana

      March 15, 2013 at 7:07 pm

      Your ideas sound so much like what I love to do. I would love to purchase a full curriculum and then go from there – perhaps as I went along in coming years I’d see what I wouldn’t need and could buy bits and pieces!

      Thank you for your help!!

  • camille

    March 15, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    I honestly believe what works for you and the child or children. You create the learning environment that intrigues and fullfills all the learning. It does not need to be “structured” with my boys they have give from school to homeschooling, and back and now we are homeschooling the rest of the year due to pcsing at the end of the school year. Sorry about the grammar I am on my phone

  • NJ @ A Cookie Before Dinner

    March 15, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    My son is the same age as Bella, 3.5. Right now, he is going to preschool two mornings a week (he used to go there full time, when I was working full time). Next year, he’ll go 5 afternoons a week to a preschool program to get his basics in as well as a little time with his peers. We’ll use the rest of the time to follow his cues and explore his interests. We hit the library, get outside, go to our town’s family center etc on the time that we’re home which also allows the freedom to explore. As he gets older I’m not sure if we will homeschool or not. I feel like so much of the day is potentially wasted in a traditional school setting when we could be out exploring in other ways.Have you checked out Chasing Cheerios (http://chasingcheerios.blogspot.com/)? She does Montessori style homeschool and is really creative with their art studies etc. Even if the montessori method doesn’t work for you in theory, she’s got tons of great ideas!

    1. Diana

      March 15, 2013 at 6:06 pm

      I’m going to check her out! I feel the same way, a lot of what I taught in school was rote practice that might not take as long at home with 2 instead of 20!

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